For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? - Mark 8:36

It's no surprise that financial woes can put a strain on a marriage. But acquiring wealth presents a different set of challenges for marriages.

“Our problem,” he said, “is that everyone in my life listens to what I say and does what I tell them. Then I come home and it doesn’t work that way with my wife. I don’t like that.”

She didn’t either.

The comment was neither unexpected nor unusual. In workshops for marriages in crisis, leaders often note that those couples in which one mate is very successful in his or her career or earns quite a bit of money have unique situations that call for unique solutions. Sometimes the successful or high-earner spouse (we will call that one SS for short, and the other one OS or "other spouse") is the husband and sometimes it is the wife. If both are equally high achievers or high-earners, the problems may exist but usually not as intensely.

Of course, the same problems that potentially plague all marriages plague those of the successful or wealthy, and sometimes the problems that plague the moneyed also plague less well-to-do marriages, though often in less concentrated ways.

What types of problems do those who help couples notice in affluent marriages? The following issues are not exhaustive but occur often.

The SS feels unappreciated

One husband stated it, “I feel as if the only thing I’m loved for by my wife is that I bring home enough cash for her to have whatever she wants.” He felt that she did not love him for who he is but only for what he provides. She replied that she very much loved him and would continue to love him whether they had money or not.

He smiled sarcastically. “Why do I hear only complaints when you don’t get what you want, and hear nothing as long as you do? There isn’t even a kind word or acknowledgment of my existence unless you or the kids want something from me.”

Rather than trying to understand his sense of being loved for what he did rather than who he is and working with him to discover how to remedy the problem, she shrugged it off, “He just doesn’t get it.” To her absolute shock, this highly successful rock of a man began to weep. His last comment before walking away was, “Maybe someday someone will love me without my having to earn it.”

In another marriage, a famous, successful wife said of her husband, “He’s lazy. I work hard to be successful and he does nothing. The Nanny takes care of the kids all day; I am working; and he is nowhere to be found. He surely can spend money but seems allergic to making any. I don’t care if he flips burgers, digs ditches, or becomes a CEO. I just want to know that I’m not the only one in this marriage who works for a living.”

He neither thanked her for her hard work nor looked for a job on his own. He seemed quite happy to live off her. She was miserable feeling that her husband loved her primarily because her success allowed him a life without responsibility. Not only did she feel unloved for who she is rather than what she provides, she felt abandoned. “I don’t have a partner. I have a freeloader."

The OS feels the SS acts arrogantly

A husband pointed out that as a trial attorney he made his living by arguing and proving the other side wrong. He particularly liked to keep the other side guessing what he was going to do next and catching them by surprise when he could legally do so. He claimed he had never lost in court.

However, he did lose his wife.

She said, “It’s like I’m opposing counsel or something. It seems that no matter what I say, think, or feel, we go into pitched battle until I say, think, or claim to feel what he says I should. I feel controlled, manipulated, and second-rate. His true love isn’t me; it’s winning.”